Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a paramount public health concern - impacting more than 7% of children and 5% of the population as a whole. Although pharmacological interventions (e.g. psychostimulants) remain the main treatment for ADHD, there has been growing awareness that these medications have detrimental short and long-term side effects on the developing brain. As a result, there is an increasing need for alternative intervention strategies that limit the reliance of young ADHD patients on medications and offer additional angles to improve the behavioral deficits at the core of ADHD symptoms. This Phase I research proposal investigates the feasibility of one exciting possibility: brain training video games that target the dysfunctional networks in the ADHD brain and harness the brain's inherent plasticity (i.e. malleability) to strengthen the functions at the root of ADHD symptoms. The distributed network of brain areas underpinning inhibitory control (IC) is the target system in this Phase I proposal. IC is the ability to flexibly cancel inapproprite actions and the neural systems responsible for these abilities are a focal site of disruption in ADHD. NeuroScouting LLC has already developed video games that assess the function of these IC systems (BrainAnalytics) and have also developed games that train this network to work more efficiently (NeuroEnhance). These games have been used with elite professional baseball players that deploy these brain systems at a near-optimal level on the field. The current proposal aims to take these tools and apply them to individuals that have compromised IC functions in ADHD. The basic structure of the research program is to conduct two experiments testing the feasibility of BrainAnalytics and NeuroEnhance tools within the ADHD population. At the core of our approach is the recognition that not all ADHD patients are the same and current strategies that employ generalized interventions across all individuals are simplifying the multi-dimensional nature of the disorder. NeuroScouting's BrainAnalytics games challenge target neural systems and adapt in response to each individual's performance to measure the current information processing capabilities of the brain. These measures provide information about the current individual's skill level and guide NeuroEnhance training so that it can efficiently induce brain plasticity using training around this individualized breakdown point. Independent benchmark tests and behavioral assessments will determine whether these brain training games generalize to situations in the 'real-world'when IC systems are called upon in school, at home, and beyond. This research will lay the groundwork for the development of a range of other web-based games that will provide young ADHD patients with transformative new options to bolster the neural systems impacted in ADHD.
The current proposal examines the feasibility of neuroplasticity-based video games as interventions in ADHD. These individualized brain training tools would offer patients a transformative new approach to improving the brain systems at the root of ADHD-related deficits. These software tools could complement current treatment strategies while reducing the reliance of patients on psychostimulants and other pharmacological treatments.